Hoping Against Hope

He had been promised he would be the father of many nations. But we know the story, Abraham had great difficulty becoming the father of but one child. And yet, as I read Romans 4 this morning, he is called the “the father of all who believe.” Talk about your plentiful progeny!

So, how come? What’s the secret sauce for a man who considered his body already dead trying to have a baby with a wife whose womb was demonstrably dead? Apparently, it’s hoping against hope.

[Abraham] is the father of us all. As it is written: “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, the One who gives life to the dead and calls things into existence that do not exist.  He believed, hoping against hope, so that he became the father of many nations according to what had been spoken: “So will your descendants be.”  He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body to be already dead (since he was about a hundred years old) and also the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He did not waver in unbelief at God’s promise but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, because he was fully convinced that what God had promised, He was also able to do.

(Romans 4:16b-21 CSB)

Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as the substance (NKJV), or reality (CSB), of things hoped for. This morning I’m chewing on a definition that seems to extend that a bit, faith is hoping against hope.

It’s one thing to hope in something for which the odds are favorable (like a couple in their early twenties hoping to have a child). It’s another thing to hope in something that’s almost for sure hopeless. Abraham’s body was a good as dead. Sara’s womb was past being dead. Shouldn’t hope have been dead as well? I’m thinking. But when hope was dead within him, Abraham went on hoping in faith.

How come? He was fully convinced that what God had said He would do, God was able to do. That his God was not just a god of wishful promises, but the God of eternal purposes and wondrous power.

Hoping against hope. Fully convinced God is able to do what He says He will do. That is the faith which credits righteousness apart from works (4:6-12). That’s also the faith which causes the people of God to keep on keepin’ on when keepin’ on seems to be leading nowhere.

Hopeless is what demonstrates God’s power the most. Moving forward when it’s not even clear where forward is demonstrates His people’s faith the most — even when that faith is fragile. Hoping against hope, full convinced. Not because of how strong our faith is, but because our faith, even if only the size a mustard seed (Mt. 17:20), is in Him who is strong.

Hoping against hope. Fully convinced.

Only by His grace. Always for His glory.

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Remembering Our Sin

Was in California last week with kids and grandkids. As someone reminded me, “food for the soul.” But, it was also havoc for early morning routines — mostly because “all day” with the boys was in conflict with “early mornings” with my bible. Enough time in the mornings to read, hard to find time to write.

This morning I’m hovering over Psalm 51. A song written by David. A song about his sin with Bathsheba. A song which, for some who would misunderstand grace, might seem to be a psalm which shouldn’t have been written.

If David had confessed his sin . . . if David had been forgiven his sin . . . if, as far as the east is from the west, God had removed David’s transgressions from him (Ps. 103:12), then why bring it up again? And why in a song, written down for others to read? Why provide the potential for the lowest moment of his walk with God to be preserved and perpetuated? And why, by the Spirit of God, was it prompted of David to write it down so that, in fact, it would be immortalized? Shouldn’t David have just moved on? Couldn’t David have just struck it from memory? Apparently not.

It would seem that while sin can forever be forgiven, it is perhaps unwise that it should be forgotten. Not that it would be ammunition for the enemy to keep throwing in our face a debt which has been fully paid, but that it might continue to provide a condition of heart from which pleasing sacrifices to God might forever be made.

Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare Your praise.
You do not want a sacrifice, or I would give it;
You are not pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit.
You will not despise a broken and humbled heart, God.

(Psalm 51:15-17 CSB)

A broken spirit, a humbled heart — those are the sacrifices pleasing to God. Nothing like a reminder of God’s graciousness in our deepest failures to prompt offering up our highest worship. No replacement for a fresh remembrance of purifying and cleansing from sin (v.7) committed against Him — and Him alone (v.4) — as a catalyst for restoring again the joy of His salvation and the sustaining power of a willing spirit (v.12). Nothing like a renewed appreciation of having been saved from my guilt to open my lips with songs of praise (v.15). Seems to me this morning that you need the depths of working through Psalm 51 on a regular basis in order to experience the heights of Psalm 103 on a regular basis.

Spurgeon, quoting J.J. Stewart Perowne, offers this to chew on:

When speaking of thankfulness, we might have expected him to say, “a joyful heart, or a thankful heart,” but instead of that he says, “a contrite heart.” For the joy of forgiveness does not banish sorrow and contrition for sin: this will still continue. And the deeper the sense of sin, and the truer the sorrow for it, the more heartfelt also will be the thankfulness for pardon and reconciliation. The tender, humble, broken heart, is therefore the best thank offering.

Are we to, from time to time, remember our sin? Is there benefit from recounting unpleasant memories of our transgressions? I’m thinking so.

In Luke 7 we can read of a woman known to be a sinner who sought out Jesus while He was dining in the house of a Pharisee. She made her way to Jesus as He reclined at His host’s table and, standing behind Jesus at His feet weeping, began to wash His feet with her tears and anoint them with the precious oil. Needless to say, she caused quite the scene and raised the hackles of indignation upon the neck of Jesus’ Pharisee host. Hear Jesus’ reply:

“Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she, with her tears, has washed My feet and wiped them with her hair. You gave Me no kiss, but she hasn’t stopped kissing My feet since I came in. You didn’t anoint My head with olive oil, but she has anointed My feet with perfume. Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; that’s why she loved much. But the one who is forgiven little, loves little.”

(Luke 7:44-47 CSB)

We remember our sin not to wallow in our sin, but to worship in God’s amazing forgiveness of our sin. To forget our sin, it seems to me, runs the risk of growing cold in our love for our Savior and wanting in our sacrifice to our Savior.

The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit.

Because of grace. For His glory.

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The God to Whom I Belong (2018 Rerun)

D, U, M, B . . . dumb!!! That’s what it was, dumb. A dumb decision to set sail. It was the majority decision, but it was the wrong decision. It was the expedient decision, the pilot preferring another port, but it was a reckless decision. And the centurion who was calling the shots went with the crowd and “decided to put out to sea . . . on the chance that somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete” (Acts 27:12).

How’s that for confident decision making? . . . “on the chance they could somehow, maybe, make it.” D,U,M,B . . . dumb!!!

And though Paul perceived the danger and sought to advise the decisions makers with a voice of reason, he was just the prisoner. A passenger, along for the ride. A nobody, really. Yet, as things would play out, clearly a somebody.

They set sail, and not long after the ship is at the mercy of a “tempestuous wind” (v.14). Forced to literally go wherever the wind blows, they eventually start tossing overboard the ship’s cargo and tackle as they continue to be “violently storm-tossed” (v.18). And then, after days “when neither sun nor stars appeared,” and with no apparent relief in sight, “all hope of being saved was at last abandoned” (v.20).

Situation hopeless.

And Paul, thinking that now the majority might be open to new ideas from the minority, almost humorously says, “Men, you should have listened to me” (v.21). Ya’ think?!?

But here’s the thing that I’m chewing on. Paul’s “I told ya’ so” wasn’t because of who Paul was. After all, he was just a prisoner . . . nothing more than a passenger. No, it wasn’t because of who he was, but because of to Whom he belonged.

“Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told.

(Acts 27:22-25 ESV)

“The God to whom I belong.” That’s what I’m noodling on this morning.

I belong to God, says Paul. How brash! How beautiful!

Paul’s identity wasn’t founded in that he was some great preacher or proclaimer of the truth. For, evidently, powerful preachers and proclaimers can end up in the brig as powerless prisoners and passengers. Large crowds can give way to stinky sailors. Those who might have been the cream of the crop one day, can be but cargo the next.

Instead, despite the storm, in the face of “situation hopeless,” even when you’re not in the position to make the call or pull any levers, you can take heart because the God to whom I belong says, “Do not be afraid, I have plans for you. And those plans will be fulfilled. For you are Mine.”

Oh, to rest in the reality that we are His. That we are not our own, but have been bought with a price and have been made a temple of God by His Holy Spirit (1Cor. 6:19-20). That the Son of God “gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession” (Tit. 2:14), that “whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s” (Rom. 14:8).

And so, we worship the God to whom I belong. And we trust in the God to whom I belong. And we ride out the storms through the power and protection of the God to whom I belong. And we take heart, and have faith, believing it will be exactly as we’ve been told by the God to whom I belong.

Oh, the wonder of being a child of God. Oh, the identity we possess as co-heirs with Jesus. Oh, the hope that is ours because we have been bought with a price. Oh, the love that flows from redeemed hearts because of the love shown us by our Great Redeemer.

My Beloved is mine, and I am His . . .

(Song of Solomon 2:16 ESV)

I am His. Yes I am.

He is the God to whom I belong. He is the God whom I worship.

Because of His amazing grace. Forever for His indescribable glory.

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A Reprise

It’s a sort of reprise, repeating the theme of the last song. You know that because it shares the same chorus.

Why, my soul, are you so dejected?
Why are you in such turmoil?
Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him,
my Savior and my God.

(Psalm 43:5 CSB)

(cp Psalm 42:5 and Psalm 42:11)

Last song was clearly credited to the sons of Korah. Psalm 43 is presented anonymously. I wonder if it’s because this is the song that inspired the first one. Lyrics written in the first person actually by the person who was so dejected of soul. I’m wondering if this isn’t David’s work. A piece written inspired by the time (recorded in 2Samuel 15) when he was driven from his throne by “an unfaithful nation” (v. 2).

So, he cries out to God to vindicate him, to champion his cause, to set all the wrongs right (v.1). For, at least in the moment of unjust exile, he feels as though God has rejected him, determining instead that he “go about in sorrow because of the enemy’s oppression” (v.2).

But in the meantime, until justice reigns, what’s the dejected and rejected king gonna do? That’s what I’m chewing on this morning.

Send Your light and Your truth; let them lead me.
Let them bring me to Your holy mountain,
to Your dwelling place.
Then I will come to the altar of God,
to God, my greatest joy.
I will praise You with the lyre,
God, my God.

(Psalm 43:3-4 CSB)

David’s most ardent longing after being thrown out of Jerusalem wasn’t to get back to his throne. It wasn’t to know again his seat of power. It was to return to God’s holy mountain so that he could come again to God’s holy dwelling. To bring his sacrifices again to the altar. To play again songs of praise on his lyre. To proclaim again, with unfettered (and, per 2Samuel 6:14-15, perhaps even somewhat unrobed) abandon that God alone was his greatest joy. “Take the world but give me Jesus” might have been a favorite song of his had it been around then.

So where did David look to be led back to the holy hill? Where might we look?

Send Your light and Your truth; let them lead me.

While this may refer to the light and truth of God’s presence, I’m processing it as the light and truth of God’s word. As in, “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path” (Ps. 119:105). As in, “Your word is truth” (Jn. 17:17).

While absent physically from the house of God, while exiled emotionally by the people of God, yet able spiritually to draw near to the throne of God as he meditated, even in exile, on the word of God.

The light of God’s word making straight his paths amidst the confusion. The truth of God’s word recalibrating “true north” amidst the unexpected redirection. The leading of God’s word able to bring him, at least by faith, to the altar of God to offer, regardless of circumstance, the sacrifice of praise born of an abiding joy in God.

Hmm . . . pretty good reprise. Not a bad encore.

A reminder of God’s grace. More reason to give God the glory.

Take the world, but give me Jesus,
all its joys are but a name;
but His love abides forever,
through eternal years the same.

Take the world, but give me Jesus,
sweetest comfort of my soul;
with the Savior watching o’er me,
I can sing, though thunders roll.

Take the world, but give me Jesus,
Let me view His constant smile;
Then throughout my pilgrim journey
Light will cheer me all the while.

Take the world, but give me Jesus;
in His cross my trust shall be
till with clearer, brighter vision
face to face my Lord I see.

Oh, the height and depth of mercy!
Oh, the length and breadth of love!
Oh, the fullness of redemption,
pledge of endless life above!

~ Fanny Crosby, 1879 ~

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Communion Amidst Confusion

“My soul is cast down within me” (ESV), sounds so poetic. “I am deeply depressed” (CSB), seems so much more connective. To speak of having a cast down soul sounds somewhat dramatic (cue the back of the hand to the forehead). To confessing to being deeply depressed seems more pragmatic (think unable to get out of bed in the morning).

I’m hovering over Psalm 42 this morning, a song written and composed by the sons of Korah. A song about dealing with depression.

It starts off familiar enough.

As a deer longs for flowing streams,
so I long for you, God.

(Psalm 42:1 CSB)

Singing about a deer that panteth for water back in the mid-80’s evokes pleasant memories. One of the praise choruses (as we called them) that warmed the heart, closed the eyes, and turned the face toward heaven. Rarely, if ever, do I recall singing the song as a response to being depressed. But according to the sons of Korah, it’s a salve appropriately applied in depths of sorrow.

When tears have been your food day and night (v.3); when memories of happier times with God’s people break open your heart (v.4); when the voices of your enemies are oppressively amplified (v.10); when the only conclusion your dejected soul can muster is that God, my rock has forgotten me (v.9); then is the time for faith to offset the sense of failure that sweeps over you as “breakers” and “billows” in a deep, deep sea (v.7).

Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him,
my Savior and my God.

(Psalm 42:5b and 11b CSB)

Twice this is the songwriters’ command to the dejected soul. Twice this is wielded as the weapon of what you know to be true against the debilitating weariness of what you feel to be true. I will still praise Him, for He is a saving God. He is a delivering God. He is an unchanging, promise-keeping, able to rescue God. Thus, I will hope in God. Still, I will praise Him.

Arid seasons have a way of creating a thirst for God. Tears day and night have a way of opening up a whole new appreciation for God’s 24/7 provision.

The Lord will send His faithful love by day;
His song will be with me in the night—
a prayer to the God of my life.

(Psalm 42:8 CSB)

By day, awareness of mercies that are new every morning. At night, the assurance of His goodness from the songs that run through your head after the lights are out. This, available through faith’s determination, is the fruit of communion amidst confusion. It’s the evidence that God has not forgotten me but is, in fact, the God of my life. All of my life — the seasons of soaring and the seasons of sorrow.

By His grace. For His glory.

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A Dead Man Alive

Felix, the Roman governor of Judea, was well informed about had become known as “the Way” (Acts 24:22). His successor, Festus, not so much. Though he would not release Paul for fear of the Jews, Felix would hear Paul repeatedly (24:26b) on matters concerning “the subject of faith in Christ Jesus” (24:24). Two years later, Festus would also hear Paul because, though Felix was gone, Paul was still there in prison. And so, Festus himself heard the case against Paul presented again by his accusers. And, at the end of the day, he was “at a loss” as to what to do with “a dispute over such things” (Acts 25:20). A dispute over what kind of things?

. . . they [the chief priests and elders of the Jews] had some disagreements with him [Paul] about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, a dead man Paul claimed to be alive.

(Acts 25:19 ESV)

Jesus, a dead man alive. No wonder poor Festus was at such a loss.

For all the legitimate and eloquent ways we might present the gospel, doesn’t it sort of come down to this — Jesus was a dead man who now is alive? At the root of the good news is a promised Messiah, a substitutionary and atoning death, and an empty burial spot. Empty not because He was moved to another spot where His body returned to the earth, but empty because He rose from the grave, is alive, and has ascended to heaven.

Sounds crazy if you step back. But isn’t it the core?

. .  and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation is in vain, and so is your faith.. . . if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.

(1Corinthians 15:14, 17 CSB)

A dead man alive. The foundation of our faith. If that is true, then He is to be believed and the Scriptures which testify of Him are to be received.

Chewing on the wonder of the resurrection this morning. He is alive!

And because He is alive, when He says that the atoning work sufficient to save my soul is finished (Jn. 19:30), it is! Because He is alive, when He says that I will live too (Jn. 14:19), I will. Because He is alive, when He says that He will live in me and through me (Gal. 2:20), He will. All because a dead man — the man Christ Jesus, Immanuel, God come in flesh — is alive.

Oh, what a Savior!

What grace to not be at a loss over such things, but in wonder and worship over such things.

To God be the glory!

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He Spoke

He had become “the taunt of fools” (v.8). And he knew it was best to keep his mouth shut (v.1). Yet, his “pain intensified” (v.2). His “heart grew hot” within him as the more he thought about it the more “a fire burned” (v.3). Finally, like a volcano that could contain the pressure of the steam building within it no more, he blew. He spoke. And what I’m chewing on this morning is to whom he spoke and of what he spoke.

David was being scorned by fools. As Peterson puts it he suffered under the “contempt of dunces.” He was hammered by the reproaches of those who, in the original, were nabal (Rings a bell? Check out 1Samuel 25, particularly verse 25, “His name is Nabal and stupidity is all he knows”). But rather than try and deal with their stupidity and foolishness, he kept silent. But when he could keep silent no longer, he spoke. Yet, not to his accusers but to the Lord. How come?

First, by looking into the face of Him who is eternal, it gave him perspective on the temporal.

“Lord, make me aware of my end
and the number of my days
so that I will know how short-lived I am.
In fact, You have made my days just inches long,
and my life span is as nothing to You.
Yes, every human being stands as only a vapor. Selah”

(Psalm 39:4-5 CSB)

His days were short, thus the season of suffering would be short. While the suffering was real, while it was consuming too much of “the vapor” of his life, in terms of eternity it measured just fractions of an inch. While weeping would last for a night, joy would come in the morning (Ps. 30:5). And in the grand scheme of eternity, morning was coming soon.

Second, he knew that while the accusations were from those without sense, he was not without fault himself. In some manner, his fleshly weakness had, it seems, provided fuel for these fools’ fire.

“Now, Lord, what do I wait for?
My hope is in You.
Rescue me from all my transgressions;
do not make me the taunt of fools”.

(Psalm 39:7-8 CSB)

He owned his sin. Thus, he looked to the only One who could rescue him, not only from his accusers, but most importantly from himself.

For finally, he knew that whatever was happening to him was happening according to the permissive will of the One in whom He hoped. It was being allowed by the God who works all things — even purifying crucible types of things — together for good for those who love Him (Rom 8:28). That those the Lord loves, He disciplines (Heb. 12:6) and that, while so painful in the season, if he would submit himself to the Lord’s “angry gaze” (v.13) concerning his sin, he would benefit from sharing in the Lord’s holiness as it yielded the fruit of peace and righteousness (Heb. 12:10-11).

“I am speechless; I do not open my mouth
because of what You have done.
Remove Your torment from me.
Because of the force of Your hand I am finished.
You discipline a person with punishment for iniquity,
consuming like a moth what is precious to him;
yes, every human being is only a vapor. Selah”

(Psalm 39:9-11 CSB)

The spark that ignited his suffering was struck by fools. Yet the fire that was lit made him aware of his own sin. And so, when words could be contained no longer, he turned to the One in whom was his hope. And, he spoke.

“Hear my prayer, Lord,
and listen to my cry for help;
do not be silent at my tears.”

(Psalm 39:12a CSB)

By God’s grace. For the psalmist’s good. For God’s glory.

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He Had a Family

Paul had a sister. Who knew? We do, because God wants us to know. All Scripture is God-breathed.

But the son of Paul’s sister, hearing about their ambush, came and entered the barracks and reported it to Paul.

(Acts 23:16 CSB)

Paul had a sister. And his sister had a son. And somehow this son was in Jerusalem. Maybe he lived there with his mom and dad or, as some have speculated, maybe he was following in his uncle’s footsteps and was in Jerusalem for religious instruction. This young man may have been tagged as a potential up-and-comer in the ranks of the Pharisee as, like his uncle, he too was known to be “zealous for God” and thus was being “educated according to the strict view of the patriarchal law” (Acts 22:3). That might explain how he had become aware of the plot to ambush and kill Paul by some within the Sanhedrin, the counsel of elite Jewish priests, scribes, and other leaders.

So, talk about your right person in the right place at the right time. Access to the Sanhedrin grapevine because of his pedigree, access to Paul because of his genealogy, and under the radar because of his immaturity (that this young man was perhaps more of a young boy is indicated in verse 19 where the Spirit records that the Roman commander “took him by the hand” to lead him to a private space to talk).

But it isn’t the “serendipitous” nature of what was obviously orchestrated by a sovereign God that causes me to pause. Rather, I’m chewing on the fact that Paul had a sister. Paul had a nephew. Paul had a family. And I’m thinking about what it may have been like for them to have Paul as part of their family.

Was he, at first, regarded as that crazy uncle who went off the rails after that trip to Damascus? The one who did the 180? The one who had thrown everything he had worked so hard for away in order to preach a resurrected Jesus as the promised Messiah? The one who started associating regularly with . . . gasp . . . the Gentiles?!? You know, the one who, for the sake of the foolishness of the gospel, had accepted rejection from his community, even to the point of beatings, lashings, and once a stoning (2Cor. 11:23-25)? Yeah, what were they thinking about what he seemed to be thinking?

Paul had a family. Those on the periphery of his life who watched his life. Relatives who, though they had relatively little to do with his day-to-day itinerary, were nevertheless impacted by it. Watching from the wings, they drew conclusions about the way he walked. Paul, while a witness to many throughout the known world at that time by what he preached from the pulpit, was also a witness to his sister, and to her son, by what he preached through his life. He had a family.

Not sure I’m going anywhere with it, but somehow seems right to be chewing on it.

Word of God speak.

By His grace. For His glory.

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Just As the Lord Commanded

Think of those who walked out of Egypt behind Moses and, most often, you think of those who stumbled in the wilderness. Not much to show from that generation when they entered the promised land. In fact, not much of that generation to show as only two of those twenty years and older would cross the finish line (or the starting line, depending on how you look at it) into Canaan.

But as I wrap up Exodus this morning, a phrase repeated again and again reminds me that what they did get right was the tabernacle.

The Israelites had done all the work according to everything the Lord had commanded Moses.  Moses inspected all the work they had accomplished. They had done just as the Lord commanded. Then Moses blessed them.

(Exodus 39:42-43 CSB)

Just as the Lord commanded. Or, just as the Lord had commanded. It rings out 17 times in the closing chapters of Exodus. A ton of gold, 7.5 tons of silver, over 5 tons of bronze, all fashioned into a portable dwelling where the glory of God would be seen. Specially woven garments fit not just for a king, but for the priests of heaven’s King, fashioned according to spec so that set apart men might be arrayed in holy garments befitting their holy duty.

While they may have missed the mark in so many other ways, when it came to the tabernacle and the priestly garments, if there’s anything the Spirit wants us to know, it’s that they had done just as the Lord commanded.

How come? To offset all the times and all the ways they didn’t do as the Lord commanded? So that they might have some lasting legacy from their wilderness experience? So they had something to boast in? I don’t think so.

I’m thinking it might have something to do with how important the tabernacle would become in atoning for their failure. How vital that a man could enter the holy of holies and spread the blood needed to cleanse a people of their transgressions. How essential it would be that God would have a place set apart in order to be the holy, holy, holy God who could dwell in their unholy midst. Getting this right, would, quite literally, cover a multitude of sin. Not because they did the work of building it, but because, by God’s grace, it would be used of God to do the work of redeeming them.

And most importantly, because it would point to something greater that would provide a greater redemption.

A better tabernacle in which God would be with us. A better High Priest to go before God for us. A better sacrifice to be offered, once forever, to God in place of us.

Jesus came, just as the Lord commanded.

God knew the wilderness provision could never be the final provision, but He wanted it to point to the One who would be.

“Moses finished the work” (Ex. 40:33), just as God had commanded, and it provided a picture of something to come. Christ, the better Moses, Himself became the fulfillment of that picture in the wilderness. And He too, through the cross of Calvary, would finish a work, just as God had commanded. Making the way of redemption and eternal life available for all you believe.

And believe we must in order to be saved. Just as the Lord commanded.

By His grace. For His glory.

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Keep It Cool

Up until this morning, I would have said it was one of my favorite psalms. But a light goes on as I hover over David’s song and I realize that it’s more like a psalm that contains some of my favorite verses.

Trust in the Lord and do what is good;
dwell in the land and live securely.
Take delight in the Lord,
and He will give you your heart’s desires.
Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in Him, and He will act . . .
Be silent before the Lord 
and wait expectantly for Him . . .
Wait for the Lord and keep His way,
and He will exalt you to inherit the land.

(Psalm 37:3-5, 7a, 34a CSB)

Trust, delight, commit, be silent, and wait. A set of verses that have been familiar since they were first brought before me in a sermon I heard decades ago as a young man. Favorite verses. Yet, as I realize this morning, most often plucked out of context and applied as needed (especially the “delight yourself” one).

So what turned the light on this morning? Again, a rendering of the original unique to the CSB. A thrice-repeated command that I think I have usually overlooked in the past. Whereas previously I might have skimmed past “fret”, this morning I’m arrested by “agitated.”

Do not be agitated by evildoers
do not envy those who do wrong. . .
do not be agitated by one
who prospers in his way . . .
Refrain from anger and give up your rage:
do not be agitated — it can only bring harm.

(Psalm 37:1, 7b, 8 CSB)

Agitated. Seems more intense than “fret”, the rendering in the ESV, NASB, NIV, and NKJV. Literally, “don’t get yourself all heated up.” Don’t “glow”, don’t “burn”, don’t be vexed unto anger. Or, perhaps putting it another way, do the opposite, keep it cool.

A command to obey. Repeated three times — that’s like shouting in Scripture. So obey it. Don’t be agitated. Keep it cool.

The context? That’s what makes the difference between favorite verses and a most helpful psalm, the context. And the context is instruction on how to respond to an injustice. Not the sort of injustice that finds you getting the short end of the stick, but the kind of injustice when someone pokes you in the eye with the stick. You’ve been wronged with a grievous wrong. Slandered with reckless slander. Disgraced at large with disinformation. So, what are you gonna do?

Well, start first with what you’re not gonna do. Do not be agitated. Do not fret. Do not get all worked up and, if you do, don’t stay all worked up. And how are you not gonna do that? Keep it cool. And just how you supposed to do that? Cue my favorite verses.

Trust in the Lord. Delight yourself in the Lord. Commit your way to the Lord. Be silent (or still) before the Lord. Wait for the Lord. These, it seems to me, are the “to do’s” when you’ve been wronged. Your focus rather than brooding over the injustice. Your conscious actions instead of thinking you can somehow bring about justice.

Keeping it cool happens when I trust, delight, commit, be still and wait for the One who ensures justice to bring about justice. In His time, even when it’s not fast enough for me. And, in His way, even if that way involves the pouring out of grace and love where grace and love aren’t deserved. (Thank God, for grace and love being poured out on those who don’t deserve it . . . of whom I am chief).

Hmm . . . Do not be agitated. Perhaps easier said than done. But I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Php. 4:13). Yes?

Keep it cool.

By His grace. For His glory.

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